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Robotics Engineering Student Spotlight: Amanda, Courtney and Gemma

Check out the interviews below with Robotics Engineering students Amanda, Courtney and Gemma to learn more about their experiences and how you can #BeThatEngineer!
Robotics Engineering Student Spotlight: Amanda, Courtney and Gemma - Engineering Student

Meet Amanda, Robotics Engineering Student at the University of California in Santa Cruz, California. 

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Amanda is a first year Robotics Engineering student. She attends the University of California in Santa Cruz, California.  

Can you tell us a bit about Robotics Engineering? 

Robotics engineering focuses on creating programs and machines that replicate human actions. Whether that’s creating machines to do the dirty, dangerous, and dull jobs people don’t want to do, or doing things that would be challenging for humans to accomplish. 

What inspired you to study Robotics Engineering? How did you first become interested in STEM? 

I first became interested in STEM when I was young. My mom is an engineer, so I grew up seeing how much she enjoyed her work. Additionally, the company she works for, Keysight Technologies, holds “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” every year. I had the privilege of participating in the event multiple times. I was also a part of SWENext and the SWENext High school Leadership Academy. These programs were a great way for me to learn more about the wide range of engineering fields available to study. 

 I decided to study robotics because I love creating things and making things work. Robotics Engineering seemed like the perfect field of study that would allow me to use both the scientific and artistic sides of my brain, in both hands-on work and with computers. 

 Can you tell us about some really cool things that Robotics Engineers are working on? 

Robotics Engineers have a broad range of industries they can go into after college. They can go into the entertainment industry and work on theme park rides or animatronics, they can help develop and build robots that help in a healthcare setting, either by helping medical professionals or with disability aid, they can work for NASA and help build rovers that help us explore planets, the opportunities are endless.  

What kinds of challenges have you encountered as a woman studying Robotics Engineering? 

One challenge that I have encountered as a woman studying Robotics Engineering is the male majority in my classes. It can feel a bit overwhelming when you walk into a lecture hall and are only one of a few women, but I found it easier to overcome that by finding other women in my classes and building relationships with them. 

Can you tell us about a time when you failed? How did you move on from that?  

During my first quarter at UC Santa Cruz I took a Python coding class. It was my second python coding class ever, so everything I was learning was new to me. There was one particular assignment during the 6th week of the quarter that was especially challenging for me. I spent hours and hours trying to work through the assignment, but I couldn’t figure it out. I felt defeated and unhappy with myself for not being able to figure it out. I don’t want to call it a failure, because although I “failed” at the assignment, I was able to learn and grow from it. I was able to move on and focus on the next week’s assignment, and all my other classes, by realizing that it was an opportunity to learn and grow, and I would only be hindering myself further by dwelling on my mistakes.  

Can you describe a “day in your life” studying Robotics Engineering? 

As a first year student, a day in my life mainly consists of attending lectures, labs, and completing weekly assignments. Although that doesn’t sound extremely exciting, I am learning new things every day and I find it very satisfying when making connections between topics and ideas I learned in past classes and new material. One I start taking more upper division classes, I will be able to work on more project-based assignments. 

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What do you love most about the University of California at Santa Cruz and its Robotics Engineering program?

UC Santa Cruz has one of the only Robotics Engineering programs in the country. Most schools have robotics as an area of focus within Mechanical or Electrical Engineering. On top of that, the UC Santa Cruz campus as well as the engineering buildings are immersed in beautiful Redwood trees and stunning greenery. I get to study and learn while surrounded by breathtaking scenery.  

What advice can you share for SWENexters who might be considering going to school for Robotics Engineering?  

One piece of advice I have for young girls considering going into school for Robotics Engineering would be to consider all the different applications of robotics and mechanical automation when choosing a program for college. There are programs that focus on manufacturing, others that are more hardware focused, lots that focus on aerospace and defense, and some that are very software focused. Be sure to explore different possibilities.

Meet Courtney, Mechanical Engineering Student Specializing in Robotics Engineering at the Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. 

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Courtney is a second year Mechanical Engineering student with a focus in Robotics Engineering at the Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. is a senior Computer Engineering Student.  

What made you decide to study Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Robotics Engineering? 

Growing up, I did not know anything about robotics engineering. I didn’t learn about it until my senior year of high school when I was applying to colleges. I saw that some of the colleges that I was interested in had Robotics paths under Mechanical Engineering degrees.  

I really enjoyed learning how different things worked growing up and really loved space. With that I found mechanical engineering and am following a Robotics and Controls path with the intention of going into the aerospace industry.   

What are some really cool things that Robotics Engineers work on? 

With a passion for the aerospace industry, some really cool things that people in this profession work on are the Mars Rovers and now the small helicopter on Mars. Some other cool things include the robotic arms that help with manufacturing products. 

Tell us about a time when you failed. How did you move on from that? 

Studying engineering is challenging and failing tests can be really discouraging. I have failed my fair share of tests in my different engineering courses I have taken so far. It is hard to have a test passed back and see a failing grade at the top of the paper. I’ve found that personally I need to put in extra time outside of my engineering classes to practice the topics we are learning on my own so that when the next test comes around, I am better prepared. 

Can you describe a “day in your life” studying Mechanical and Robotics Engineering?  

A day in my life of studying Mechanical Engineering consists of attending anywhere from two to three classes a day. A majority of my day is spent at the library doing homework and studying.  

I also typically work on planning events for my college’s SWE Chapter as Chapter President, and other miscellaneous things that need to be done for the organizations I am a part of on campus: SWE, DEI Committee, and College of Engineering and Engineering Technology Ambassador Program. 

What kinds of challenges have you faced as a woman studying Mechanical Engineering and Robotics Engineering? 

I’ve definitely faced challenges while studying mechanical engineering specifically with the robotics and controls path. Imposter syndrome (doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud) has been something I’ve dealt with in my two years of studying.  

Some of the imposter syndrome I have personally dealt with has come from failing a test and feeling like I am not as smart as my classmates who are men. Sometimes, when my colleagues who are men learn that I am studying the same thing as they are, they are shocked. It reminds me of how I don’t quite fit in with the men in my program. Sometimes, I will catch myself believing that they are more qualified than I am.  

I’ve overcome this by being involved in my college’s SWE chapter. SWE has been an incredibly positive and motivating aspect of my college career. Having a community of women to support me through college has improved my college experience. 

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What do you enjoy most about the University of Northern Illinois and its Mechanical Engineering Program? 

The thing I love the most about Northern Illinois University is the ability to take engineering classes as a freshman. I like that I can join any engineering club as a freshman. I really wanted to be able to join a SWE chapter and loved that NIU would let me be involved my first week on campus. This was a huge factor for deciding which college was right for me.  

As for the Mechanical Engineering program, I really liked that it has three different paths that could be taken. One of the paths is robotics and controls.  

Do you have one piece of advice for our readers who might be interested in going to school for Robotics Engineering? 

Do it! The industry needs more women in it. SWE has amazing opportunities and support systems for you while in college and in your professional career. You are more than capable of becoming an engineer and will do amazing things for the world as one.  

Meet Gemma, Engineering Management student with a specialty in Electrical Engineering at Miami University in Miami, Florida.  

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Gemma is a senior Engineering Management student with a focus in Electrical Engineering at Miami University in Miami, Florida. Gemma is excited to graduate in May of 2022.  

Can you tell us a bit about your major? 

My major is a combination of engineering and business. The engineering part is experimenting with really cool projects and the business part is how to organize it all. 

Can you tell us what inspired you to study Engineering Management and Electrical Engineering? 

I always knew I liked my math classes because it was something I was really good at. It was also challenging. I am also a very outgoing and social person. This is what drew me to engineering management, as it combines a level of difficulty and the ability to understand how the world works. I was inspired to pursue robotics engineering as it was a new course at Miami University. It is taught by one of my favorite Electrical and Computer Engineering professors. 

What did you know about Robotics Engineering when you were a child? 

I honestly knew nothing about Robotics Engineering as a child, I just thought robots were really cool. Never did I think that I would be certified in basic robot operations and programming.  

The Electrical and Computer Engineering department offered the new class selection, and I hopped on the opportunity as it interested me because it was something that I had no experience in.  

I think the coolest application of robotics that I have seen so far is the GlamBOT used for the Golden Globes, Grammys, The Academy Awards, etc. It’s a high-speed movement robot that captures high-quality videos in slow motion. While it is not used for industry, it’s a very cool use for entertainment, and since it is so popular, I wouldn’t be surprised if younger girls loved the idea of the GlamBOT as much as I do. Like me, I would hope that they would want to create something similar.  

Can you share anything about challenges you have faced as a woman in STEM? 

Students in the Engineering Management program at Miami University have to choose a specialty. I chose an electrical specialty, which can be very intimidating because of the level of difficulty combined with the fact that there is such a small number of other women in the major. I believe that I am one of 4 girls in the senior class for the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. As an underclassman, I often found myself thinking I wasn’t good at coding or that I didn’t belong in the labs because of my gender.  

I overcame these insecurities by talking with my professors and forming friendships with other engineering students. Talking it out with people who want to see you exceed can greatly help your academic confidence. With confidence and hard work, I have proven to myself that I have earned the degree that I will be receiving in May. 

Can you tell us about a time when you failed? How did you come back from that? 

I failed an exam for one of the electrical core classes. It really affected me since I had studied for a very long time. I remember being so frustrated because I had even studied at my off-campus job when it was slow. You just have to remind yourself that you are not represented by a grade. Your worth is not based on your grades. You are still a hard worker no matter the result. Also remember that so many people have failed engineering exams. You don’t learn anything or succeed if you are perfect all the time. 

Can you tell us about the importance of diversity in Robotics Engineering? 

I think women in Robotics Engineering provide a different viewpoint on problem-solving and programming. I often find that I can be better at communicating concepts than my peers who are men. Establishing a problem clearly and having exact instructions is very important when it comes to robotics. This industry has already emerged and is taking over, it is important that women’s voices are heard. 

What do you love most about Miami University and its Engineering programs? 

I love the fact that students are able to form relationships with their peers and professors. Professors really push you to learn and make you into a better person. My professors have brought in alumni for us to build connections with so we can advance our careers early.  

Dr. Hartup is one of the best resources for specializing in Robotics Engineering because not only does he want to see his students succeed, but he also makes sure you are learning. At Miami University, I have been really pushed to my limits. I have been tested multiple times on my abilities. Without these learning experiences, I don’t think that I would still be in engineering. 


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    Allison Osmanson

    Allison Osmanson is a Materials Science and Engineering PhD student at the University of Texas at Arlington. She holds a Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of North Texas and she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Washington State University. She plans to graduate in December 2021, after which, she will be a Microelectronics Packaging Engineer at Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas.